People who cycle in Winchester #8

Marc

The Murray-Rius family: Marc, Jaclyn, Ona & Kai.

Hi, I’m Marc. I grew up in Barcelona where I cycled as a kid from an early age. I remember once aged 12 taking part in a local race and then at a later stage got into mountain biking. Whilst at University I started working with the bicycle movement Massa Crítica (Critical Mass). Sometimes it was just a small turnout on the streets but other times we got a massive crowd of cyclists. We also began talking to politicians to persuade them to make the city more cycle friendly. There was some impetus for action around the 1992 Olympic Games but not a lot happened until the year 2000 onwards. Part of the drive came from unacceptable air pollution levels, traffic congestion and a boom in tourism from northern Europe where people are used to getting around cities on a bike. However, I like to think that constant pressure from Massa Crítica played a major role.

Then in 2004 I moved to South Africa to study my Masters…

Hi, I’m Jaclyn. I grew up in South Africa and met Marc when we were students together. In South Africa most people travel around in a vehicle. I had learnt to ride a bike but rarely used it. Things changed for me when Marc and I moved back to Barcelona together. Cycling suddenly became the natural way to get around. I even got a mountain bike and we’d head off occasionally into the Pyrenees. Of course, life becomes very busy – I enrolled for a PhD – and so mainly our bikes were simply the way we got around day by day.

Marc: At an international conference I met a scientist in my field of marine ecology. When the opportunity arose to work with him in Davis, California I couldn’t say no! Jaclyn and I then looked into exactly where we were headed and found that Davis was the so-called ‘bicycle capital of the US’. Its transformation into a cyclist’s paradise began in the 60’s and 70’s in parallel with most of the leading European cities, similarly driven by a few inspirational people. All major roads have bike tunnels under them, traffic-lights at large junctions allow cyclists to move first then the cars have their slot.

Jaclyn: in 2016 we moved to Teg Down, Winchester. Marc lectures at the National Oceanographic Centre in Southampton and I lecture in early childhood education at the University of Winchester. Marc cycles every day to the station, takes his bike on the train and then cycles the other end. His commute home would be a lot safer if someone had the sense to build an uphill cycle lane on Stockbridge Road! I’m on my bike every day too and for safety use the tree lined path behind Western Primary School. I’m not sure if cycling is strictly allowed but I’m not prepared to risk the road. It is an obvious location to improve the surface for cycling if the council wants less people to be using their cars to get around.

Marc: after my experiences in Barcelona and Davis I was really glad to find a small group of like-minded people in Winchester and together we created the Winchester Mass Ride. Even after Barcelona, I was amazed to see 300 cyclists coming down North Walls that first time! I hope that just like in my home city a continued large, visible cycling presence will lead to more conversations with local politicians and ultimately the changes we all want to see.

Hi, I’m Ona. I’m seven years old. I’m already on my third bike. I learnt to ride on a balance bike with no pedals which made it very easy. When I was young I went around in a bike seat and then later we got a trailer. Now I can cycle to school in Weeke but only occasionally as it isn’t an easy ride with lots of cars around and difficult places to cross. Dad says if we were back in Davis I would soon be cycling to school on my own!

Hi, I’m Kai. I’m four years old. I started in a bike seat. Then I joined Ona in the trailer. Sometimes Mum or Dad carried both of us and lots of shopping at the same time. I think they were very strong, especially as we live at the top of a big hill! Now they have bought an electric bike. The first lockdown was great for me as we did loads of rides out into the woods. One day Dad said that I had cycled 10 miles – and I was only three back then! He did give me a push up one or two hills…

Marc, Jaclyn: Yes, it’s true! Growing kids, heavy shopping bags, steep hills – it all became a bit too much. We bought a Tern longtail cargo electric bike and there’s no going back. We’ve lived in places where bikes have priority over cars and seen how much better life is for everyone. Hopefully our councillors can be inspired – and bold – and make it happen in Winchester too!

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